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NEWS: Indian Affairs cuts water shipments to Constance Lake First Nation

Last August, the Toronto Star editorial board wrote that, “At the very time Canada was voting against a UN resolution making water a human right, more than 100 aboriginal communities across the country were facing drinking water advisories requiring them to boil their water or rely on emergency deliveries. …That stark statistic has hit home for the 900 Cree and Ojibwa members of the Constance First Lake Nation in northern Ontario, where a state of emergency has been declared because an aging purification plant is unable to ensure a safe water supply.”

The editorial continued, “Across Canada, 49 water systems have been classified as ‘high risk.’ At Constance Lake, the three-decade-old purification plant does not comply with Ontario regulations that (are supposed to) protect everyone in the province. …These events may explain the federal government’s refusal last month to back the UN’s declaration of water as a human right, given the abysmal situation in our own back yard. But that’s no excuse for having the right position on the global stage, and doing the right thing on First Nations reserves.”

The Toronto Star‘s Linda Diebel quoted Constance Lake Chief Arthur Moore then saying, “Access to a safe and useable water supply is a right of every person living in this country.” Moore noted the irony of his community declaring a state of emergency on July 28, the same day the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution recognizing water as a basic human right. Several powerful nations, including Canada, abstained.” Diebel added, “Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians national chair who fought for the UN resolution, urged all First Nations to start using the resolution in their struggles to get the federal government to honour its commitment to provide clean water to aboriginal peoples.”

This weekend, APTN reported that, “Indian Affairs is forcing the reduction of bottled water shipments to a northern Ontario First Nations that has been without a clean water supply source since this summer, according to the band chief. …Constance Lake Chief Arthur Moore said Indian Affairs says it will now only pay for 1.5 litres of water a day for every person in the community. The community had been shipping in six litres of water a day for every person since late July when it decided that algae-covered Constance Lake was no longer a safe source of water for the community with a population of 900, said Moore, in a telephone interview. …He said this was done despite Health Canada advising the community it needed at least seven litres of water a day for drinking and personal hygiene.”

“The band is currently looking at long-term sources of water and hoping to receive funding to replace the aging treatment plant. The community is also currently receiving tanker loads of water for laundry, dish washing and toilets from a private co-generation power station about seven kilometers from the community that is drawing water from the Kabina River.”

The APTN article is at http://aptn.ca/pages/news/2010/11/19/indian-affairs-cuts-water-shipments-to-ontario-fn/. The Toronto Star article and editorial is in an August 7 campaign blog at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=4346.